How do you Know if Your Bipolar is Improving?

How do you Know if Your Bipolar is Improving?

July 14, 2014 Bipolar blog bipolar disorder

It’s easy to tell when your bipolar is getting worse. At least, it sure the heck is for me. I spend my nights crying and trying desperately not to kill myself. It’s a notable thing that you really wouldn’t miss.

But how do you know if your bipolar is improving? Is it actually possible that you might miss the signs of your bipolar getting better?

Improving Bipolar Symptoms Due to a Medication Change

About two months ago I changed up my bipolar medication slightly. Honestly, no part of me thought it was going to help. I’ve had such a bad go of it that I figured a tweak here and a tweak there would amount to nothing in a brain as messed up as mine.

And when I saw my doctor last week I didn’t have anything major to report. But then, when I thought about it, I realized that I hadn’t been spending my nights sobbing and warding off suicidal and self-harm urges. I told him that my nights were pretty uneventful, actually. And he said, “Well, we did change you medication last time.”

That’s right. We did. I had actually been so convinced that it would do nothing that when it did do something, I didn’t even notice. (Note that you want to make sure you’re feeling better and not becoming hypomanic.)

Bipolar getting worse is easy to see but can you miss the signs of improving bipolar disorder? You might be surprised at the answer.The Absence of Bipolar Symptoms

What had happened was I had missed the absence of bipolar symptoms. It was really easy to see the addition of bipolar symptoms, but it was also really easy to miss them when they disappeared.

New Behavior – Improving Bipolar?

And then, suddenly, last week I found myself volunteering to man the door at a big party where I knew no one. Um, what the heck brought that on? That’s a seriously socially stressful place in which to put yourself that would induce serious anxiety and somehow I had volunteered for it?

The following day it occurred to me – I never would have done that before. The heavy bipolar symptoms would have stopped me from even considering leaving my house at night and even if I did, somehow, agree to it, I would likely cancel at the last minute (I didn’t).

My behavior was actually telling me that the medication was working; I just had to be listening.

How Do You Know if Your Bipolar is Improving?

I know for many people that seems like a strange question but honestly, I did miss the signs of bipolar improvement until I really thought about it (there were others I missed too). And it’s not like I’m dumb or haven’t done this a million times before. But when the positive bipolar changes come very slowly over the course of months, it really is easy to miss them, particularly after prolonged, treatment-resistant illness.

Good ways to know if you’re getting better include:

  • Increased social interaction
  • Getting out the house more often
  • Decreased mood symptoms
  • Decreased negative mood-driven behavior
  • Feedback from friends and family (there people often notice changes in you before you do)
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Greater functionality – more work/school output

And I’m sure there are other ways for other people as well. Please do share your own signs below.

[This all assumes that you’re getting better from a depressed bipolar episode. Obviously, if you were manic, things are a little different.]

Celebrate the Improving Bipolar

And just a little note here: it’s important to see these small bipolar improvements because they are things to celebrate. Yes, it would be great to wake up one morning and be asymptomatic (that has pretty much happened to me with medications before) but that’s not likely to occur. So, note the small changes; note the small wins; pat yourself on the back and celebrate. Something is going right. (Want to know what you’re doing right in your bipolar treatment? See here.)


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.



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